Media Life @ IU CMCL

After some wonderful responses to presentations on the Media Life project at my own Department of Telecommunications, at the Department of Sociology of Indiana University, as well as after seminars at Leiden University, and the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses) earlier this year), this week, on Friday April 2, I'm excited to be presenting this work-in-progress at a colloquium of my friends over at Indiana University's Department of Communication and Culture.

The talk is part of a series of CMCL Colloquia), and is scheduled from 4PM-5PM in the Classroom Office Building (COB) Room 100 (CMCL offices/800 E. 3rd Street between Woodlawn and Indiana).

If you are around and have time, or know of colleagues and/or students who might be interested, it would be great to see you there. feel free to forward this announcement!

The working paper, co-authored with Peter Blank and Laura Speers, can be downloaded from IU ScholarWorks.

An updated Media Life slideshow is archived at Slideshare.

For this particular seminar, I intend to ground the media life perspective more deliberately within and beyond a distinct set of earlier theoretical notions of a more or less seamless integration between media and society (or: humans and machines; culture and computers; the social and the technological), such as:
  • media equation; Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass’s notion of media as equating real life in terms of how people "mindlessly" (link to PDF) interact with media as social actors

  • mediascapes; one of five dimensions of global cultural flow as outlined by Arjun Appadurai, suggesting how media are central to constituting imagined worlds by persons and groups spread around the globe

  • mediasphere; Peter Sloterdijk's conceptualization of our contemporary mediasphere (link to PDF of his foreword to "Spheres") as the stage of electronic and telematic globalization, where people live inside their own societal bubbles of space, necessarily leaving them blind to coexistence

  • mediology/media philosophy; a range of approaches such as advocated by Regis Debray, Mike Sandbothe and Frank Hartmann calling for a critical and reflective study on "the fuzzy zone of interactions between technology and culture" and to deliberately move theory beyond "the cool present."

  • mediatization; an institutional approach primarily developed by theorists such as Stig Hjarvard (link to PDF of a definitional article in Nordicom Review), where media are seen as an independent societal institution with a logic of its own, and where media simultaneously become an integrated part of other institutions like politics, work, family, and religion as more and more of these institutional activities are performed through media

  • media ontology; as proposed by Friedrich Kittler, arguing how philosophy over time has become blind (or even outright hostile) to that what supports and shapes thinking the most (media)

  • actor-network theory (ANT); in an attempt to consider the technological on the same plane as the social, ANT considers that everything (human and non-human) is continually produced through their connections and relationships, thus emphasizing "radical indeterminacy", "relational materiality" and "performativity" of both scientific and technological actors (see for example the work of John Law, John Hassard, and Bruno Latour)

  • media ecology; as defined by Neil Postman and others, media ecology is a generally 'soft' determinist view on how media affect "human perception, understanding, feeling, and value."

  • remix and remixability; a point of view developed by Lev Manovich in an argument to show the increasing inseparability of culture and computers, and as such providing the interface with which we engage with the world (an interface that privileges selection over originality, exemplified by the cut-and-paste method of the remix)

  • media theory; many contemporary theorists such as Katherine Hayles, Jodi Dean, Slavoj Zizek, Donna Haraway, William Mitchell, Douglas Rushkoff, Sherry Turkle, Nicholas Gane, Rich Ling, Paul Virilio, Barry Wellman, Tiziana Terranova, Nelly Oudshoorn, Loet Leydesdorff, Niklas Luhmann, and danah boyd (to name but a few), who all in some way have postulated the ongoing and increasing interaction, integration and interfacing of the social and the technological.


  • The media life perspective is, all things considered, a logical extension of these arguments - including older ones such as by Walter Ong, Harold Innes, and Marshall McLuhan. What media life hopefully adds is a grounding in everyday experiences with media that moves beyond concerns over whether media are "good" or "bad" for us, instead focusing on their empancipatory, structurating, disruptive potential; a rejection of research goals in media and communication studies that implicitly or explicitly suggest that we can somehow "master" or "control" media by simply evolving a "new" brain or raising a level of superior and critical awareness/consciousness vis-a-vis media; a conceptual (and phenomenological) attempt to move beyond human/non-human distinctions to make sense of such mediated lived experience, and a discussion of concrete implications for our understanding of ourselves in the world with - paraphrasing Richard Rorty - a deliberate focus on social hope.